Don't Go There Mr. President!

17,000 or 21,000 more US troops will not protect Americans against Al Qaeda attacks.

The Obama plan instead will accelerate any plans Al Qaeda commanders
have for attacking targets in the United States or Europe. The
alternative for Al Qaeda is to risk complete destruction, an American
objective that has not been achieved for eight years. A terrorist
attack need not be planned or set in motion from a cave in Waziristan.
The cadre could already be underground in Washington or London. The real
alternative for President Obama should be to maintain a deterrent
posture while immediately accelerating diplomacy to meet legitimate
Muslim goals, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir.

President Obama is right, at least politically, to take very seriously
the threat of another 9/11 from any source. Besides the suffering
inflicted, it would derail his agenda and perhaps his presidency. This
is all the more reason he must understand that by repeatedly threatening
to "kill Al Qaeda" he is provoking a hornets' nest without protection
against a devastating sting.

The hard choices are laid out very clearly in writings by the CIA's
former point man on Osama bin Ladin, Michael Scheuer, who also ran the
agency's rendition program and still supports it. Scheuer is a tough
guy, in other words, who says the options are either to kill all the jihadists, make it
quick and withdraw (not a real option), or begin pursuing an agenda
that addresses what he calls Muslim issues: the American military and
civilian presence in the Arab Peninsula, the
unqualified US support for Israel, US support for states that oppress
Muslims (China, India, Russia), US exploitation of Muslim oil and
suppression of its price, US military presence in the Islamic world, and US
support and protection of Arab police states.

Such an approach would create an option to violence for many millions of
jihadi sympathizers and potential recruits. It would create an incentive
not to inflict terrorism, blow up airplanes and hotels, or deploy a
nuclear bomb in a suitcase. It would disturb the multinational oil
companies and the Israel lobby but open a better path to stability than
wars against the Muslim world.

Escalation of American troop levels is a slippery slope. John F.
Kennedy sent 16,300 Americans to save South Vietnam from the

President Obama obviously has no intention of sending hundreds of
thousands of American troops into Afghanistan or Pakistan. But
escalation, once it begins, is increasingly difficult to stop. Already
Obama's generals want more troops than the president is sending. The
neoconservatives and Republicans are demanding a "must-win war" and
denouncing any talk of an exit strategy. A gradual American escalation
may play into the jihadist game plan, drawing more Western troops into
jeopardy or permitting a retreat into mountainous wastelands if
necessary. Any "redeployment" (another word for retreat in the minds of
the neocons), other than returning with Bin Ladin's head on a platter,
provokes a right-wing reaction at home. The easy solution to these
pressures is another escalation followed by another, like one drink at a
time. (See Daniel Ellsberg, "Secrets", 2002]

A regional diplomatic and political solution is possible, but not by
imposing US-NATO dominance.

In the model currently applied, military force is to be followed by
diplomacy with NATO at the center. Whatever the reason--access to oil
resources, global dominance, the clash of fundamentalisms, distrust of
the region--this desire for Western dominance delays and may even
derail any possible diplomatic solution. The primary powers in the
actual region include Iran, India, Russia and China, all distrusted on
various levels by the US government, which therefore wishes to include
them only as junior partners or satellites of NATO. Take the example of
Iran: with 150,000 American troops on its border with Iraq, and upward
of 100,000 more on its border with Afghanistan, is it going to revert
to its 2001 posture of supporting the United States in Afghanistan? Or
take the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (China, Russia and Central Asian
countries): will they be persuaded to welcome NATO? They already are
on record calling for US military withdrawal from the region. Or take
the Kashmir crisis" does the United States expect Pakistan to withdraw
support for the Taliban and other jihadists it sees as a bulwark
against the Indian
threat in Kashmir and Afghanistan while the United States tilts toward

The other problem with a diplomatic solution for the United States
is the
uncomfortable matter of democracy. In Afghanistan, the Karzai regime
might not survive this year's election, in which case the United States
will be
seeking a substitute who signs off on the occupation. In Pakistan, the
United States has spent nearly a decade, and $11 billion in taxpayer
supporting a military dictatorship and now, after the assassination of
Benezir Bhutto, the United States has been backing the Zardari regime
against the more popular movement of Nawaf Sharif supported by
thousands of lawyers
and civil society in the streets. Anything resembling genuine popular
democracy in Afghanistan or Pakistan would end the Western military
occupation, or at least the air war, house-to-house roundups, and mass
incarceration at Bagram and force a reversal of the ratio of
18-to-1 spending priority on the military. (See Tariq Ali, "The Duel", 2008, and Ahmed Rashid, "Descent into Chaos",

The cost is far too high, another trillion in time.

Bush's war costs in Afghanistan have been $173 billion from 2001 through
2009. Obama's proposals for Iraq/Afghanistan are $144 billion this
fiscal year, but are not broken down. The secret war by the US-trained
"Freedom Corps" in Pakistan is budgeted at $400 million. As America's
infrastructure decays, the Army Corps of Engineers is spending $4
billion for construction in Afghanistan this year, including 720 miles of roads this year alone. The
expansion of
Afghanistan's army will cost "up to" $20 billion in the next several
years, while Afghanistan's entire national budget is $1.1 billion this year. Cost overruns and corruption being what they are, it is easy
to predict the Afghan/Pakistan wars costing $1 trillion by the
end of the president's first term. Military spending will continue to outpace
civilian reconstruction aid indefinitely.

In summary, be prepared for a war that spans the length of the Obama
presidency, an Obama War. Expect the Congress to be inert and
distracted. Expect little help from the media.

But hey, we've been here before.

It's time for a new movement against reckless escalation, especially one
that threatens to divert our attention from the crisis at home, while
only leaving poverty, malnutrition and anti-American hatreds rising

The movement could begin this week, a living memorial to the
passing of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968.

Don't Escalate, Negotiate
Diplomacy and Development, Not Predators and Prisons
What about the Home Front?

*Visit Get
Afghanistan Right
and learn more about reasons to oppose an
escalation in Afghanistan.

*Call your Member of Congress and let them know you oppose
escalation in Afghanistan. If you're not sure who represents you, visit
the House of Representatives website
and input your address--it will give you the name of your Congressperson
(and it will take you to an e-mail form). You can reach your Congressperson through the Capitol
switchboard: (202) 224-3121. United for
Peace and Justice gathered some
fantastic fact sheets to help you prepare.

*Call the White House and tell the president you oppose
escalation in Afghanistan: (202) 456-1111.

*Sign the petition over at Rethink Afghanistan calling for
oversight hearings on the Afghanistan policy. (They've also just posted
Part 2 of their excellent film... See the trailer.)

*Sign Sojourner's petition to

*Sign the Friends Committee on National Legislation's petition
calling for an investment in peace, not war, in Afghanistan.

© 2023 The Nation